Dramatica Requirements

Question: First up, I utterly adore the site. I visit it at least once a week and I've been experimenting with dramatica ever since I found it about two years ago. It's helped my plots tremendously, so thank you so much for putting it out there!


On to my question: I've always had a lot of trouble working out the Requirements bit of my stories. I understand how it might work for stories where the goal is tangible or quest-based, but what about stories where the goal is more abstract or character driven? Everything I've read regarding Dramatica suggests the Requirements should be easily identifiable as marked progress towards the goal, but how exactly does that work in a story where the goal itself isn't immediately obvious (at least until you sit down and analyze the story)?

I'm especially confused about how to apply this when the goal is collective, where everyone is pursuing the same type of goal rather than a single thing that everyone has their sights on.

For example, in a story where the collective story goal is finding happiness in a relationship (to borrow the example used in Storyweaver), what would some possible requirements be?

I'd really appreciate any clarification you could offer. Thank you!

Answer: First up, thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you find this site helpful.

Regarding Requirements... Sometimes stories, like lives, can only be understood in hindsight. While there are stories in which a character is given a Goal or quest in Chapter 1 and purposely pursues it, in other stories the main character has no conscious purpose. He may only know there is a hole in his life or psyche that wants to be filled. For instance, Romeo doesn't set out to end the feud between his family and Juliet's. He just is looking for love. Only in hindsight can the audience see that their romance and suicides were necessary to bring about peace in Verona.

Let's say you have a literary novel with a happy ending. That means the main character's drive, problem, etc. will be resolved in the end. She will reach a state of balance, inner peace, wisdom, satisfaction, happiness, victory etc. In hindsight, the reader can look back and see the Requirements - all the events, the coincidences, betrayals, decisions, chance encounters, conflicts, insights, etc. that were necessary for the character to achieve happiness in the end. The main character herself may or may not realize that her life improved only because these things occurred - because her father died, because her lover betrayed her, because she made the fateful error, because she walked into that coffee shop, because she turned left instead of right, etc. At the same time, the reader too may only recognize the Requirements in hindsight, once he has reached the end of the story.

As the writer, of course, you can orchestrate all these events, nudging your main character in the direction you know she must take if she is to achieve happiness in the end. Or, if you are a pantser, you may write without planning, adding events as they occur and eventually writing an ending that satisfies because it will be the natural outcome of the events that have happened. If the ending is happy, those events, in hindsight, will have met the Requirements. If the ending is unhappy, the Requirements will be the things that might have led to happiness, if the main character hadn't made the wrong choice.

Regarding a collective goal, sometimes everyone will share in the victory, as in Star Wars. Sometimes everyone will have their own victory. For instance, in Love, Actually, pretty much all the characters find love in different ways. Even the guy who can't be with the girl he loves because she marries his best friend finds some kind of resolution in deciding to move on. And in some stories, it is enough for some of the characters to reach the goal. For instance, in Casablanca, Victor, Ilsa, and the Bulgarian couple escape Casablanca, but we do not actually know the fate of many of the minor characters. In a romance, it is often enough for the main character to find love in the end, even if the other characters do not.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero